As many gardeners have come to learn, one cucumber plant can go a long way. Are you harvesting a lot of cucumbers from your garden this time of year? Maybe you are getting a bunch in your weekly CSA box. If you are looking for more creative ways to use cucumbers than just slicing them into a salad, here are five ideas to inspire you.
1. Introducing the BCT
Wait, what? The bacon … cucumber … and tomato sandwich? Why, yes, that’s exactly what that is. And let me tell you, this idea was life-changing for me.
As any gardener and BLT lover knows, by the time your garden tomatoes are red, juicy and ready to slice up for your favorite summer sandwich, your lettuce bed has gone bitter and bolted. Either you suck it up and buy lettuce at the store, which is kind of horrifying to think about because you couldn’t even give the stuff away two months ago, or you go with the far inferior BT sandwich, hold the L.
But now you have another option, the BCT. Remember those cucumbers thriving in the garden, right alongside the tomatoes? Simply grab one (it’s best to chill it in the refrigerator for a couple hours), slice it thin the long way, and use it in place of lettuce in your sandwich. Thinly sliced cucumbers provide the crunch and freshness that you otherwise would get from leaf lettuce. Brilliant!
To tell you the truth, I actually prefer the BCT to the BLT now. I also used sliced cucumbers in place of lettuce in all kinds of sandwiches during the summer when I can’t get lettuce to grow.
2. Refrigerator Pickles
A good way to use up a lot of cucumbers quickly is to make pickles. But making and canning pickles is a time consuming process, and I can never seem to get the texture just right. Who wants a mushy pickle?
Refrigerator pickles are a lot easier to make and, in my opinion, are superior in taste and texture to their canned counterparts. They must be refrigerated, as the name suggests, and they don’t last as long as canned pickles (you have to use them within a couple of months), but they’re so good you’ll want to eat them right up anyway.
I’ve tried a lot of refrigerator pickle recipes, but the Quickest Pickles recipe from the August 2017 issue of HyVee Seasons magazine (which is free at the checkout counter at HyVee grocery stores) is about the best I have found. I whipped up a batch of crisp, tangy refrigerator pickles in under 10 minutes!
3. Cucumber Salsa
It turns out that cucumbers make a great addition to fresh salsa, also known as “pico de gallo.” Just add finely diced cucumbers to the familiar combination of chopped tomato, onion, and fresh garlic (don’t even think about using the stuff that comes minced in a jar). And don’t forget the key ingredients to any fresh salsa recipe: Cilantro, jalapeño, and fresh lime juice. These ingredients provide a necessary burst of acid, heat, and all-around zing.
This recipe for Cool Cucumber Salsa pretty much fits the bill for me. When I make it, I skip the parsley and dill weed and add more cilantro instead. I also double-up on the tomatoes and garlic.
4. Cucumber Cups
How about cucumbers as a vessel? Cucumber cups make a great base for fun party canapes.
To make cucumber cups, trim the ends off a cucumber, then peel it and cut into 1-inch slices. Use the small end of a melon baller to core out the centers of each slice. Take care to leave the bottoms of each slice intact to form shallow cups.
Fill each cup with the contents of your choice. For the gazpacho cups pictured below, make this quick Spanish tomato salad: 1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced; 1/2 cup finely diced red onion; 1/4 cup drained capers; 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; 2 tablespoons chopped parsley; and salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture sit for about an hour for the flavors to develop before filling the cups. Top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
Or, for an Asian variation, fill the cucumber cups with Thai Grilled Beef Salad (omit the cabbage mixture and chop the grilled steak instead of slicing). Garnish with mint or cilantro leaves.
5. Cucumber Sauce
My friend Kevin, an avid fisherman, taught me how to make Cucumber Sauce on a recent neighborhood fishing trip to Canada. (I thought the trip was going to be a bore and brought along a whole lot of reading material that I didn’t even touch. It turns out I like to fish. Who knew? But I digress.) The sauce makes a great alternative to tartar sauce to accompany fried or grilled fish.
Kevin says he’s “not a measuring kind of guy,” but I’ve provided some approximate measurements based on what he told me. His version calls for sour cream; I use Greek yogurt because it’s my normal substitution for sour cream in most things I make at home.
What is your favorite way to prepare cucumbers?